3 Great Colorado Road Trips
Travel has so many benefits, and road trips are one of the best ways to do so. Not only will a great summer road trip allow you to see places and cultures different from your own, but you will also build plenty of memories that will last you a lifetime. Whether you are looking to bond with your family and friends and find inspiration in nature's many wonders, travel solo and meet like-minded souls, or take a gap year and a chance for self-reflection, these Colorado road trips are sure to fulfill your agenda. Please note, due to COVID-19 we do not recommend travel at this time. Please wait until stay at home orders have been lifted to embark on these road trips.
1. Flat Tops Trail Scenic Byway
Flat Tops Trail is a relatively secluded, lesser-known stretch of road in scenic Northwestern Colorado. This trail spans an 82-mile stretch and connects the towns of Yampa and Meeker. Both of these towns are south of Steamboat Springs. By driving this route, you can expect to travel on small service roads that meander through rolling hills, towering forests, river valleys, and glacial lakes. These trails mainly served the Native Americans of the Ute Tribe. Although this trail is fairly remote, active ranches and mines exist along the route. If you’re lucky, you may glimpse native flora and fauna in the area, such as moose, elk, bighorn sheep, marmots, and many wildflowers exploding in a rainbow of colors. This area offers many recreational activities, including horseback riding, mountain biking, and hiking. With an adventure around every bend, this byway will awaken the spirit of adventure within you.
2. Million Dollar Highway
Million Dollar Highway is part of the San Juan Skyway and is one of the United States' most spectacular drives. This 25-mile stretch of road follows U.S. Route 550 between Silverton and Ouray, Colorado. This heart-pounding drive is home to hairpin turns and dangerous drops, all with no guardrails or safety measures in place, so be careful! This challenging drive is characterized by narrow lanes, extremely steep cliffs, and "S curves" used to gain elevation on the trip. These conditions are well worth it though, as this road snakes its way through the most rugged and wild peaks of the Rocky Mountains.
This area is also home to elk, bears, deer, mountain goats, a myriad of wildflowers and other plants. However, it is important to note that novice drivers should not attempt this trip, as avalanches, landslides, icy conditions, and heavy snowfall occur frequently. Make sure you are in a safe vehicle with four-wheel drive.
There are many legends regarding the origin of this road's name. One of the most popular tales speculates that the road cost one million dollars per mile. If you are brave enough to take on the Million Dollar Highway, it will surely be a breathtaking experience.
3. Trail Ridge Road
Trail Ridge Road, or "Highway to the Sky," is a heavily traversed Rocky Mountain National Park road. This trail spans a grand total of 48 miles between the towns of Estes Park and Grand Lake, Colorado. With its highest point at 12,183 feet, this road offers all of its visitors breathtaking views and a plethora of native wildlife. Each spring, you will find an incredible display of alpine wildflowers. This nationally designated "All American Road" is also surrounded by the Rockies, sweeping towards the sky in every direction.
Regardless of which side you start on, all visitors of this trail will climb over 4,000 feet in elevation in a matter of minutes. From mountain forests full of ponderosa pines to thick subalpine forests and alpine tundra, this trail is sure not to disappoint. At its highest point, the conditions of this road are not unlike those found in the coldest places in the world, as the temperature usually drops by 20-30 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition, you can expect high winds and bright sunlight. The drive up to the top of this trail includes thickly forested moraines, lush mountain meadows (with over 200 species of alpine plants) and melting Ice Age glaciers.
Another highlight of this trail is the Continental Divide, which separates stream flows between East and West. This beautiful experience cannot be described in words, and it is hard to find a picture that does it justice. Taking this trail is sure to be a memorable experience.
Writen by Mikkie Mills